17th November, 2017
Startup India Related News

Agro-research or farmers’ bail-outs: Time to find real answer to compounding farmer problems

policy experts have till now argued about the government’s approach to bail-out farmers. Terming it as a populist measure, the expert-suggestions emphasise on the need to focus on development-specific R&D to advance the agriculture economy. Considering the fact that nearly 60 per cent of Indian population is still dependent on the agriculture or its allied activities, it is wise to focus on all-inclusive growth in the agricultural economy. This shall be backed by a strong think-tank. And, the talk is not to fix micro-solutions to support vast livelihood.

Agriculture R&D: What is it about?

It broadly addresses concerns related to infuse technology, improve supply chain productivity and meet the growing challenges of shifting consumption patterns. Overall, it can benefit in dealing with farmer concerns like seed problems, sustaining the crops, climate change affect, irrigation issues, etc.

Few aspects of R&D and technology

Genetic Modification of Seeds  It has by far one of the most controversial subjects in the Indian agriculture realms. The environment campaigners in the past have raised concerns about the ability of Indian Science and blamed the scientists of deceiving the public. They are concerned about the farmer’s safety and only handful of people controlling the country’s food supply. However, India saw it first GM or use of bio technology to produce BT-cotton. GM crops are a success abroad in creating better yield of crops, by feeding crops with a new gene to alter the basic DNA structure of the crop. It also reduces dependency on other agro-resources and agro-chemicals specifically. Plants produce pesticides on own after the genetic material is supplemented in them. The BT crops or Bacillus thuringeinsis crops is a natural bacterium occurring in the soil that releases protein which is insect-repellent. In that sense, the crops are safer and edible and reduces the risk of farmers lying exposed to harmful chemicals and buying it at a steep cost. Effective Water Management The unpredictability of rains is a stress cause factor, especially for the mass-scale crop production. The need is to optimise the use of local water resources and create new means to reduce water wastage. Irrigation technologies is a must-have and the subject needs to be further dwelled upon to irrigate specific areas. Till now, farmers are dependent on electric and diesel pumps to extract groundwater. Drip irrigation, also known as the localised irrigation system, is a solution in sight which releases water targeting the plant roots by using plastic pipes. Another water lifting device is the treadle pumps. Irrigating scheduling is another important measure which is dependent on good crop knowledge and soil water characteristics. It is a dependable channel for reducing water waste. The matter requires a focussed and detailed approach like slotting the timing for irrigation scheduling, soil water measurements and estimates, and how not to stress the crops. Continued R&D investment is required to continue digging on the subject and make it more effective. Precision Agriculture  Another good example of improved productivity is related to the application of ICT in agriculture. Environmental management and creating an integrated system to track the environment indicators and its influence on sustainable agriculture is the fundamental approach here. Satellite remote sensing is important in collating information on the fragile eco-system like the marine or the forest areas. There are advanced technologies which can even track the land cover assessment, and indicate detailed factors like cultivable land by slope and steepness. It is crucial to identify the quantity of cultivable land and for sustaining thequality of identified land later. It means effective use of marine resources as well. Integrated Pest Management The use ofbio pesticides and biocontrol agents is cheaper and eco-friendly. Another developing technique is the non-pesticide management, in turn, dependent on the farmer’s local area knowledge, personal skills and labour. Community effort and knowledge play a significant role here as the focus is on treating the whole irrigated area as one, single pest complex and thus, moderating the application of pest control factors. The collective watch helps in determining the life cycles of the insects, cases of pests and diseases and evaluating information like the relationship between the pest population and soil fertility management. R&D units - both at private and government level –help in organising field research and process development to create an eco-friendly environment and sustainable agriculture practices to keep the farmers updated on the effective land use patterns.